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HOME  > Past issues  > 2020 April 22 - May 12  > Japan conducts only 5,259 tests a day for coronavirus, far short of PM Abe’s daily target of 20K
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2020 April 22 - May 12 [POLITICS]

Japan conducts only 5,259 tests a day for coronavirus, far short of PM Abe’s daily target of 20K

April 26, 2020
In Japan, although the number of daily PCR tests for COVID-19 is increasing, the number of tests carried out on April 24 was only 5,229. This figure fell far short of the Prime Minister Abe Shinzo-set target of conducting 20,000 tests per day.

A drastic expansion of testing is essential to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

Compared to other countries, in Japan, people have more difficulties in receiving a PCR test because of the Health Ministry’s policy under which only those having severe symptoms of fever and pneumonia are allowed be tested in principle. It is highly likely that many people with mild or no symptoms are left unchecked.

Shibuya Kenji, special advisor to the Director-General of the World Health Organization, estimates that ten times more people may have already contracted the coronavirus than the number of people tested positive in Japan. Hokkaido University Professor Nishiura Hiroshi, who is a member of the government’s expert panel on the coronavirus outbreak, on April 24 expressed the same view as Shibuya.

As of April 24, the confirmed number of coronavirus cases in Japan stood at 12,864 in total. If the two infectious disease experts’ views are correct, the number of cases should be 130,000 and 100,000 of them did not receive medical attention.

It is said that of the people contracting the coronavirus, 80% show little or no symptoms, but are capable of transmitting the virus to others. The Abe government made a huge mistake in its anti-COVID-19 effort by disregarding the risks pertaining to patients without visible symptoms. It is important to check as many people as possible and then send serious patients to hospital while isolating those with mild or no symptoms in hotels or designated public facilities.

The Japanese Communist Party has proposed that the government set up a sufficient number of PCR testing centers other than at hospitals. It also urges the government to change testing guidelines so that people can take the test swiftly based on diagnosis made by a doctor online or on the telephone.

The important thing is to make sure that PCR testing centers can secure enough doctors, nurses, and technicians as well as protective gear which are in seriously short supply. Financial support is also vital. It costs 50 million yen a month to run a PCR test center in Tokyo. Tens of billions of yen will be necessary to operate testing centers across the country.

However, the Abe government did not allocate even one yen to improve PCR testing capacity in the recently-published supplementary draft budget. The government should drastically revise the draft budget and spend the sufficient amount of money needed to administer the tests.
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